Bugging out: Have you considered eating insects?

Sep 23, 2023
This blogger discusses the evolving relationship between food, sustainability, and culinary adventure as we age. Source: Getty

As we get older, the subject of food often comes up. Gluten, fat, dairy, meat, and other culprits all come under scrutiny especially as we deal with dietary issues. It’s hard to know where to turn.

With the planet heating up, the issue of food is becoming a topic of greater importance. We all read about the carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, and that sort of thing, so it’s only a matter of time before our food consumption habits will eventually take a turn.

Ever eaten any insects? Hear me out. They’re quite the rage these days with those who fancy adventure dining. You don’t even have to travel overseas to enjoy them.

Crickets, grubs, and grasshoppers are only a few of the delectable menu items available nowadays for those interested in lowering their carbon footprint. They’re almost all protein, cost far less to raise than cows, chickens, or other animals, and if properly camouflaged, can be quite tasty.

Strangely enough, in many cultures, bugs are a no-brainer. Throughout history, the popularity of bugs is widespread. Today, they remain a traditional food throughout many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

For example, both the Romans and the Greeks consumed insects. Aristotle knew quite a bit about cicadas, claiming that the males are better to eat at first, but after copulating with the females, the ladies taste better as they are full of white eggs. You go, girl!

The Japanese often favor aquatic fly larvae sautéed in soy sauce and ginger. In Bali, they often rave about de-winged dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger and garlic.

In Ghana, winged termites are often consumed during the spring rains, and are either fried, roasted, or incorporated into bread. In South Africa, termites are utilized in cornmeal porridge.

Fire-roasted tarantulas are common in Latin America, and who hasn’t toyed with the agave worm, tempting you at the bottom of mezcal liquor in Mexico?

Americans and most European countries are a minority when it comes to their consumption of these earthly delights. After Europe developed into an agrarian society, insects were viewed as the culprit to crops.

But we’re usually conditioned against eating certain things. What child would even dream of eating snails, frog legs, or uni? But as the palate matures, tastes change. Maybe it’s time for you to also consider bugs.

As a travel writer, I’ve sampled cuisine from many parts of the world. Most of it would be classified as edible. But cuisine that’s deemed inedible is another story.

The first time we tried insects was at a Pan-Asian restaurant in Santa Monica California. I was doing a dining feature for a magazine and this was my assignment.

Typhoon featured cuisine from places like China, Korea, Thailand, and many surrounding countries. Grubs and bugs were prominent on the menu.

One thing about being a travel writer is that you are exposed to things that are out of your comfort zone. This dinner was one of them.

The manager ushered us to our seats and gave us some menus. There they were, right in the middle of the page. I had my first glass of wine to get me prepared.

We began with the Taiwanese crickets, which were quite tasty. They were stir-fried with raw garlic, chili pepper, and Asian basil. Honestly, it was like savoring a bunch of potato chips. I chose to ignore the flecks of insects in the mix. The dish was crunchy and delectable. So far so good. What’s next?

Next came the Thai-style sea worms, deep-fried on top of baby lettuce leaves, with ginger, Chile pepper, peanuts, and lime, and paired with a tamarind dipping sauce. I love escargot, so maybe worms would be similar to snails.

This was a beautiful presentation; the little worms hardly a reason for squeamishness. The fact that they weren’t moving was a huge plus. I’ve seen a few of those Asian videos on YouTube with live creatures being eaten, and that wasn’t for me. There’s only so much a travel writer can endure. The dish was quite spicy though, and if the worms weren’t already dead, that sauce would have demolished them for sure.

I was still breathing, so our next course was the Singapore-style scorpions, which were glaring at me from the top of shrimp toast. I had already visualized this one, pretending the scorpions were baby lobsters. I love lobster, and that fantasy seemed to work well, especially since I was on my second glass of Cabernet before I looked closely at the little darlings.

Don’t scorpions kill people? What am I thinking? We both gingerly tasted, and then in three bites, those little suckers were gone No stinger, no poison, just a good tuna sandwich. I think my gal pal Erika might have even used one of her legs as dental floss.

Well, we survived, and thankfully we are here to tell the tale. I’d like to up the stakes next time when I have the opportunity to go for bugs. How about some large locusts, spiders, or something else from one of those lousy ‘50s movies?

It’s just a matter of time before insects are raised for human consumption on a larger basis. Solar panel farms? Move over? Sustainable farm-raised insects are on their way.

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